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Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 10:58 UK

Senior Indian politician expelled

Jaswant Singh
Jaswant Singh praised Mr Jinnah in his book

A senior leader of India's Hindu nationalist main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been expelled from the party.

Jaswant Singh's expulsion was announced by the party during a meeting.

This comes a day after the BJP "dissociated" itself from a new book on Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, written by Mr Singh.

Mr Singh had praised Mr Jinnah in the book and said the latter has been "demonised in India".

Mr Jinnah is a controversial figure in India and considered the architect of the partition.

Jaswant Singh, a 71-year-old party veteran who has served as finance and external affairs minister in BJP cabinets, has said he was "saddened" by his expulsion.

"I am sad because I was among the first lot of members of the BJP. I have served the party to the best of my dedication for the past 30 years," he told reporters.

"It saddens me even more than I have been expelled on grounds of writing a book."

BJP president Rajnath Singh said the party leadership had decided to expel Jaswant Singh.

"I had issued a statement yesterday that the party fully dissociates itself from the contents of the book. Today, I put up the matter before the party's parliamentary board which decided to end his [Mr Jaswant Singh] primary membership," party President Rajnath Singh told reporters.

"So he has been expelled. From now inwards he will not be a member of any body of the party or be an office bearer," he said.

Confusion

While disowning Mr Singh's book on Tuesday, Rajnath Singh said that Mr Jinnah had played an important role in the "division of India which led to a lot of dislocation and destabilisation of millions of people".

Jaswant Singh has said that his book is a "purely academic exercise, which should be read and understood".

"Why should I regret [my] five years of rigour [of writing the book]? [The book] is my reading of the painful period [the 1947 partition of India] of history," he said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah

Though the book on Mr Jinnah may have been the immediate provocation, a section of the party leadership has been unhappy with Mr Singh's recent utterances about the BJP, the BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says.

The former foreign minister said in a TV interview that the BJP "cannot be a party of yesterday" and that there was a need for greater "clarity" of its ideology.

Despite attempts to play it down, the BJP is haunted by its Hindu nationalist past.

Our correspondent says questions will now be asked to why senior party leader LK Advani was not similarly punished after he openly described Mr Jinnah as "secular" after a visit to Pakistan in 2005.

Mr Singh's expulsion was announced as the BJP begun a three-day meeting to review the state of the party.

The party has been plagued by in-fighting and a crisis of leadership after it lost the 2009 general elections.

It is still India's second largest party - it has 116 seats to Congress's 206 in the parliament.

The review meeting is an annual affair, but recent developments make this year's event much more important.

Two party lawmakers from the northern state of Rajasthan were suspended on Tuesday for openly supporting former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia in defiance of the party's high command.

It wanted her to go as leader of the party's Rajasthan state unit after its indifferent performance in the elections.

A senior leader of the party's ideological fountainhead, the RSS, has said it preferred a younger leadership to take charge of the party - Mr Advani is 81.



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India's BJP disowns Jinnah book
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